Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE: M.L. A MINOR CHILD [Appeal By B.W., Mother]
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Court Division Case No. AD 15916500
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Christina Joliat.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor Colleen R. Cassidy Ulrich County Department
of Human Services Assistant County Prosecutor.
C.C.D.C.F.S. Cheryl Rice Assistant County Prosecutor.
Guardian Ad Litem For Minor Child Candace L. Brown.
Johnny Litt, Father Michael S. Weiss 602 Rockefeller
BEFORE: Blackmon, J., E.T. Gallagher, P.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, JUDGE.
Appellant, B.W. (referred to herein as
"appellant"), mother of M.L., appeals from the
order of the juvenile court that awarded permanent custody of
M.L. to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family
Services ("CCDCFS"). For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm.
M.L. was born in November 2015, while appellant was
incarcerated following her convictions for child endangering
and domestic violence. Several days after M.L. was born,
CCDCFS filed a dependency complaint, seeking predispositional
temporary custody. In relevant part, CCDCFS alleged that two
of appellant's other children were also in the custody of
CCDCFS, and that M.L.'s alleged father did not establish
paternity, has another child who is not in his care, and has
not completed case plan services for this
The trial court awarded temporary custody of M.L. to CCDCFS.
Appellant requested that the children be placed with the
paternal grandmother but her home was unsuitable. No other
relatives were available for placement, so M.L. was placed in
foster care. CCDCFS subsequently implemented a case plan
requiring appellant to show that she could meet M.L.'s
basic needs, and to attend anger management classes,
counseling, and parenting classes. A guardian ad litem
("GAL") was appointed for the child.
Following a hearing on March 7, 2016, the trial court
determined that M.L. is a dependent child. After subsequent
pretrials, the court also noted that appellant "has been
released from incarceration and has failed to appear for * *
On July 5, 2016, CCDCFS filed a complaint for permanent
custody of M.L., alleging that appellant has not completed
recommended services, has not benefitted from anger
management and domestic violence education, did not have
stable housing, and could not provide for the basic needs of
M.L. CCDCFS further alleged that paternity had been
established, but father had not engaged in any case plan
services, and only visited with M.L. twice.
On December 29, 2016, appellant filed a motion requesting
that her maternal cousin, A.M., be appointed legal custodial
for M.L. After speaking with A.M. on several occasions and
visiting her home twice, the GAL issued a report that
included the following:
[A.M.] is nineteen years old. She has a daughter, who is
seven months old. When the [GAL] first visited [A.M.] in
January 2017, her three bedroom apartment was nearly empty.
She had one piece of furniture, a blow-up mattress in her
bedroom. Social Worker Olivia Goins-Jordan helped [A.M.]
obtain some furniture for her home.
When [GAL] visited the home again in March 2017, [A.M.] had
only a couch and a chair in her living room, as well as a
toddler bed. [A.M.] was only working sporadically as a home
health aide. She said at the time that she was working
part-time and was in the process of finding another job. At
that time, the [GAL] read through [A.M.'s] lease to her
apartment. Her lease was obtained in October 2016 through the
Violence Against Women and Department of Justice
Reauthorization Act of 2005. She initially had a female
roommmate that was later taken off the lease. The [GAL] asked
[A.M.] whether she was a victim of domestic violence and
generally asked her about how she obtained her housing.
[A.M.] denied being a victim of domestic violence and did not
offer any further details about her past or background.
Because of [A.M.'s] age, the fact that she has her own
daughter to care for, and [A.M.'s] limited work history
and stability, the [GAL] has concerns about [A.M.'s]
ability to additionally provide for M.L. No other relatives
have been identified who are willing and able to care for
M.L. has remained placed in the same foster home since she
was born. She is bonded with her foster parents and has
become integrated into their family. The foster parents are
interested in adopting M.L.
Based upon the [GAL's] investigation, the [GAL] finds
that it is in the best interests of M.L. that CCDCFS be
granted permanent custody of her. Although [appellant] has
made some progress in alleviating the conditions that caused
removal of M.L., by participating in case plan services,
[Appellant] does not have furniture or appliances at her
current home. [appellant] is unable at this time to provide
for M.L.'s basic needs, and it is unclear if or when
[appellant] would be able to do so.
At trial, appellant's former social worker, Catherine
Borden ("Borden"), testified that appellant's
convictions for child endangering and domestic violence stem
from an incident of physical abuse upon M.L.'s brother
and he has been removed from appellant's care. M.L.'s
sister was removed from the home due to neglect of her
medical issues. Borden testified that appellant is currently
on parole. Appellant had completed some services as required
on her case plan, but did not benefit from them. Appellant
does not have her own residence, and has lived with various
friends and relatives. With regard to the father, Borden
testified that he had established paternity, but he informed
Borden that he did not intend to engage in case plan services
for M.L. and would instead focus on raising his other
children. He rarely visits M.L.
Appellant's current social worker, Olivia Goins-Jordan
("Goins-Jordan"), testified that as of the time of
trial, appellant lived with her fiancé, but their
apartment did not have a stove or refrigerator. Appellant
indicated that her fiancé's relatives lived
upstairs and she had permission to use their appliances.
Goins-Jordan also believed that appliances could be obtained
through a community collaborative organization. Goins-Jordan
opined that appellant is more stable than she had been
previously and is appropriate during her visits with M.L.
Goins-Jordan also noted that appellant has two part-time jobs
and was looking for another job.
Goins-Jordan testified that M.L. is well-bonded to her foster
family, and that her needs were met in that placement. The
father did not respond to Goins-Jordan's repeated efforts
to contact ...